I was walking down the street the other day and a rather attractive young man smiled at me. He eyes were the brightest shade of blue and he looked like he went to the gym at least four times a day. He couldn’t have been smiling at me, I mean, look at me. I am ugly. I am overweight. I have a weird roll of fat on the back of my neck. My smile in return is fake, as though the pain of being so ugly is shining through the cracks in my lips.
When I got into work, I sat at my desk with my computer logged in for over an hour, yet I didn’t touch the keyboard once. There were four things I needed to do, none of which I felt confident in. So I opened up Facebook and scrolled through, praying for something to take my attention away. I check my phone; no new notifications. Of course there is no new notifications, who would want to contact me? It’s bittersweet, my phone. I crave it, I miss it, I need it. But at the same time, I am terrified of it. Every new message could be a message of bad news, it could be my mum shouting at me for something I didn’t mean to do.
I return to work, my fingers begin to anxiously tap the keyboard. I am consumed in anxiety, unable to do my job properly. I can’t even do the simplest of tasks. I am not good enough for this job and they know it. They’re probably working on my replacement as we speak.
It’s finally home time and I walk through town. I wish I could afford to go shopping, but I spend all my money within a week, unable to control myself. Unable to restrict myself to a budget. I can’t even afford a coffee because my daily routine of a trip to Starbucks on my way to work has crippled by bank account. I am a creature of the strangest routines. The daily Starbucks. The way I walk the long way to work. How when I get home I have to have half an hour on my own, in silence, composing my thoughts.
Clothes don’t fit me, either. People think I have an interesting taste in fashion, that I always dress really well. But the truth is, I dress in whatever shit will fit me. That will hide by fat. That will add a false sense of confidence to my walk.
I crawl to the weekend. Finally, I find some safety, some happiness. My niece has come to stay. She brightens up my day. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I’d know what it felt like to have a heart. It scares me that she is growing up. She will soon be at that age where hanging out with her uncle isn’t cool. Then what will I have?
I scroll through my contact list, desperate for somebody to be there. Desperate to have somebody to call. They tell me I can, but can I really? I don’t want to ruin their day, I don’t want to burden them. I climb into bed and reside myself to a restless night. Moments of pain flicker through my head. That times I pushed somebody away. The times I let myself down. The embarrassment I felt when I last cried. The shame I felt when I realised I couldn’t do my job properly. It’s nearly four am and if I fall asleep now, I won’t get up for work in the morning. But if I don’t have any sleep then I definitely won’t be able to do my job properly.
The boy who smiled at me in the street the other day crosses my mind. I wonder if I have crossed his. I wonder if he told his friends about the really ugly person who wrongly smiled at him on Monday. I wonder if he describes me as I am; hideous.
Mental health is game. It is a game that becomes less about winning and more about how you carry on playing. As a man in my twenties, I should have my whole life in front of me. Instead, I have the whole world on my shoulders, crushing me.
I can walk into a room and feel like I don’t matter. I have the ability to ignore my friends for days on end, and not understand why they’re angry when I finally respond. I dress in whatever will cover my weakness that day. I fail at relationships because I don’t think I deserve them.
I struggle with my emotions. I struggle with staying calm. I don’t understand how any man could love me. I don’t understand how anybody could find me attractive, funny or sexy.
One thing I’ve never struggled with however, is talking about it. I guess I am lucky in that sense. So many of us men – and women too – feel like a lesser human because we can’t talk about our feelings. We don’t know how to articulate our emotions without feeling like we’ll be laughed at, shot down or locked up in a padded cell.
Because I have testosterone running through my body, I am expected to not feel emotions. As though somehow, just through being a man, I earned a coat of armour that protects me from all the shit the world has to throw at me.
Today is World Mental Health Day. Today is the one day of the year that it is okay to talk without stigma. As a man, I speak to my fellow men, I tell you that it’s okay to talk about your feelings. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to hurt.
It’s never okay to keep it all inside, to bottle it and man up.
It’s okay to see a doctor, it’s okay to seek help. It’s okay to speak to somebody. It’s okay to struggle.
I have so much love and respect for all of you, every single human being on this planet has a story to tell. It’s a story that shapes them. It’s a story that defines who they are, how they react in situations. It’s not necessarily crying about how painful it is to live, but it should be about having that free forum to open up and respond to trauma. To answer the voice of doubt in your head. To process change and to accept your self worth.
I am writing to you world, to ask for your understanding and patients. I am writing to you to ask for your forgiveness and to seek an open ear to whisper into. I am requesting that you can show me the true beauty that you have to offer, to remind me when I forget just how breathtaking the view can be, if only we find the right spot to look out from.